Judge: Arson suspect was on meth

A Half Moon Bay man, accused of burning down his home and killing his two sons, had methamphetamine in his system at the time of the fire, according to a judge, who denied bail Monday for the 37-year-old.

Charles Schutt-loffel remains in custody on arson and murder charges in the May 4, 2004, fire that killed his two sons, Charles Jr., 3, and William, 2, and destroyed his San Gregorio home located in a remote area on Seaside School Road.

Schuttloffel, who called 911 while the house burned, was injured and restrained by police while trying to re-enter the house to save his sons.

As Judge Barbara Mallach revealed Monday that Schuttloffel was under the influence of the drugs at the time of the fire, Schuttloffel sat motionless while his family and friends grieved behind him.

Mallach also said that Schuttloffel and his wife had a heated argument the morning of the incident that may have led to his alleged actions.

Mallach drew her conclusions from grand jury testimony that is temporarily sealed at the request of defense attorney Dek Ketchum. During his request for bail, Ketchum said in order for his client to be held without bail, prosecutors had to prove “premeditation” to commit murder in starting the fire.

Mallach was not sympathetic to Ketchum’s case, stating that the evidence suggested the fire was deliberately set and that the two boys were excluded as the ones who set it. Schuttloffel was the only other person on the premises, prosecutors said.

About a dozen family members and friends, who did not offer comment, were in court Monday, some leaving in tears.

A loyal circle of supporters has appeared from the Half Moon Bay area for every court proceeding since Schuttloffel’s March 12 arrest, which was nearly three years after the incident. His wife, Lana, has tearfully proclaimed his innocence. His friends say Schuttloffel would never have hurt his kids and could not have been responsible for the deadly blaze.

The case will go back to court Friday for consideration of the defense’s request to permanently seal the grand jury transcript. A jury trial is expected to be scheduled on July 31.

bfoley@examiner.com


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